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Food recalls down but incidents up for Ireland in 2022

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The number of recalls declined in 2022, but there was a rise in food incidents, according to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI)’s annual report.

In 2022, 77 Enforcement Orders were served on food businesses by the FSAI and through other agencies. This included 65 closure orders, 12 prohibition orders, and six prosecutions. Although prosecutions were down compared to 2021, other orders and notices were up.

Recurring issues that led to enforcement orders and improvement notices were poor cleaning and sanitation of premises; lack of running water; inadequate handwashing facilities; incorrect food storage; lack of, or an ineffective, pest control programs; structural problems from a lack of ongoing maintenance; and lack of, or an inadequate, food safety management systems.

There was an increase in official controls in 2022 compared with 2021, reflecting the easing of restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Inspections rose from more than 42,000 to more than 55,000.

Recalls and incidents
More than 51,000 samples were taken and tested compared with 49,658 in 2021 – again reflecting the return to normal operations after the pandemic.

FSAI issued 88 food warnings and 38 food allergen alerts, an 18 percent decrease from 2021. The main reasons for alerts were the presence of foreign matter, pathogens such as Salmonella or Listeria, or chemical contaminants such as ethylene oxide.

In 2022, the food incidents team dealt with 847 incidents, compared with 724 in 2021, a 17 percent increase. Significant ones were Salmonella in Kinder chocolate from a Ferrero plant in Belgium, safety of rice-based infant formula, and Listeria in coleslaw mix products.

FSAI’s microbiological expertise helped assist the HSE and a company in resolving an issue with Listeria monocytogenes in short-shelf-life chilled foods.

Scientists produced 362 risk assessments to support food safety incidents and investigations in 2022. This represented a 59 percent rise from 2021 demands. The biggest impacts were in the chemical safety and biological safety areas.

Recent food studies include evaluating the microbiological quality of coated chicken, Listeria in frozen vegetables, fruits and herbs and examining the methylmercury content of canned fish.

The FSAI Advice Line handled a total of 7,363 queries and complaints. Topics included food labeling legislation, food safety training, and how to start a food business. More than 4,058 consumer complaints were submitted to the advice line in 2022, with 31 percent relating to unfit food and 28 percent to poor hygiene standards.

Food fraud work
Officers from FSAI were involved in 59 food fraud investigations that resulted in seven closure orders, two prohibition orders, six compliance notices, two voluntary surrenders, one destruction order, and one improvement notice.

More than 257 bottles of Cannabidiol (CBD), 1,500 kilograms of frozen food products, 33,165 kilograms of products of animal origin, and 10.75 liters of CBD oils were seized. Nine illegal food business pages were taken down from social media sites. Ireland published five cases on EU systems in 2022 relating to counterfeit alcohol, meat products, and other items subject to fraud investigations.

Examples of regulatory divergence between the EU and the UK included the prohibition of titanium dioxide in foods on the EU market, while the UK continues to permit its use and labeling flexibilities due to the war in Ukraine.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carries out foreign surveillance inspections in Ireland to ensure businesses that supply the U.S. meet the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requirements. In June 2022, the FDA did five inspections of companies in Ireland.

FSAI was also involved in the International Heads of Food Agencies Forum, with the fourth meeting in Dublin earlier this year, and the European Heads of Food Safety Agencies.

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